It’s easy to want to feel bad for rookie corners in the NFL because most don’t make a smooth transition. Yet, down in Tampa Bay the situation has gotten pretty ugly. One corner in particular has been quiet this offseason, MJ Stewart. Where the hell has Stewart been this off-season? I say this with every ounce of respect to the football player and to the person, but one does wonder how much longer till he ends up on a milk carton.
Second Round Stretch?
MJ Stewart was one of three, second round picks by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018. By most accounts, he has been one of the most disappointing. Initially pegged as a late Day 2 guy, GM Jason Licht felt it necessary to reach for the playmaking corner out of North Carolina. Considering the immediate reactions to Bucs fans present at the NFL Draft last year, this will go down as another Licht head-scratcher.
The Bucs GM later justified the pick by touting Stewart’s football IQ as one of his best attributes. That IQ hasn’t translate to the football field so far. Let’s take a look at the numbers via Pro Football Focus.
“Stewart struggled in coverage during his first professional season, and there is no way around that. He allowed 34 of the 40 targeted passes thrown his way to be caught for a whopping 407 yards, 206 of which came after the catch. He allowed five touchdowns without making a single interception and saw a passer rating of 148.6 when targeted. That will have to improve.”
Those numbers are downright dismal. There is no “better way” to put it. Stewart did not play to his draft status last year. What is more worrisome is the lack of his name being called much this offseason. Remember, Stewart was drafted as a scheme fit corner in Mike Smith’s confusing defense. Yet he STILL graded out poorly (58.7 play grade).
New head coach Bruce Arians has implemented a new defensive scheme with Todd Bowles, so it remains to be seen whether the former second round pick will make a smooth transition DB/slot corner.
Stewart The Odd Man Out?
Arians has been on record mentioning the likes of 5 starting corners he believes he now has on the team. Considering Arians vouching for 3rd year player Ryan Smith, that leaves four available cornerback spots left. Hargreaves, Murphy-Bunting, Dean, and Davis. And considering his lack of name being called this offseason, one has to believe Stewart has been a mainstay on Arians “accountability” chart. It’s really beginning to look like Stewart could be the odd man out come Week 1.